1. Choose one of the assigned topics and write a short essay of 5 pages (about 1500).
2. Essay need to have an introduction, three body paragraphs and a proper conclusion. You have to introduce the stories you are writing about in the introduction. Most importantly, in the introduction, you need to define your thesis that you will use to connect different stories.
3. You are REQUIRED to give a title to your paper. The title of your paper is the first impression you give to your reader. In most cases, a paper without a title means that a paper has no focus or thesis at all.
4. You are REQUIRED to maintain a balanced discussion of two texts and really make connections between the two texts throughout your paper. Therefore, I recommend to include both texts in EVERY paragraph. However, an alternative is to have the first body paragraph on story A, the second body paragraph on story B, and another TWO paragraphs where you integrate these two stories together and discuss the connections between them. If you do not have two such “synthesizing” paragraphs in your writing, then your grade will not be higher than B. You do NOT need to use a compare-and-contrast format. Instead, formulate an argument, a thesis, and see how it unfolds in both stories. ( body paragraphs need each quotation from both authors= 2 total quotation from the two readings for 1 paragraph so it needs 6 total quotaiton for 3 bodies.)
5.. You are REQUIRED to incorporate quotations to substantiate your arguments. You need to have at least six quotations in your paper. HOWEVER, each quotation should NOT exceed three lines. You should also add the page number after the quote.
7. Your thinking Essay is not the Discussion Forum. Therefore, you should not use conversational style in the Thinking Essay. No SUMMARY. NO CLICHES, and NO PERSONAL ANECDOTES. Get into the texts right away from the very beginning instead of conversing on some general issue such as “the working class in every society always suffers.” Instead, you should come up with a definitive statement such as “The story of Bartleby
addresses the plight of the working class in the mid-19th century America.”
8. You need to situate the stories in their correct historical and geographical settings. For instance, in your discussion on Camus’s “The Guest,” it is absolutely important to mention the setting of Algeria. If you argue that this is a story in the United States, your grade will be greatly reduced
Topics for your second thinking essay: (choose one from these three topics)
1) Civilization vs. Primitivism: Felicite and Little Flower
In “The Smallest Woman in the World,” Clarice Lispector utilizes different perspectives to question the distinction between civilized and primitive cultures. In Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart,” although Felicite is not the “primitive” races excluded from Western civilization, the parallel between Loulou and Felicite has an implication that Felicite is as simple and “pure” as an animal. In your essay, use these two stories to examine how Flaubert and Lispector use a rather “primitive” figure to show the pretense of the French middle-class establishment (in Flaubert’s story) and the folly, the cruelty and egotism in so-called civilized life (as in Lispector’s story). In your discussion, pay attention to the narrative techniques employed by Flaubert and Lispector respectively. For instance, why does Flaubert spend a great length of time painting the landscape of a small French town in such great detail? Why does Lispector keep mentioning different stories that seem irrelevant to Little Flower? How do Flaubert’s and Lispector’s respective narrative techniques help the characterization of Felicite and Little Flower? What are the symbolic meanings in the names of Felicite and Little Flower? Why does Flaubert name his story “A Simple Heart”? Why is Little Flower “reduced to profundity”? How do Flaubert and Lispector endorse or destabilize the myth of “the noble savage”?
2). The Working Class Struggle: Bartleby
and Akaky belong to the white-collar working class that emerged in the nineteenth century. Bartleby
becomes an iconic figure in American literature, while Akaky is household name in Russia. In your essay, discuss these two stories together and examine the similarities and differences in characterization, plot development, and narrative technique. In particular, you need to address how the narrator becomes a significant character in both stories as he presents an unreliable portrait of Bartleby
and Akaky respectively. How does the relationship between the narrator and Bartleby
in Melville’s story signify the class conflict? What is the narrator’s attitude toward Akaky in Gogol’s tale? By situating Bartleby
and Akaky in their distinct historical settings, how does each figure reflect the changes and challenges their respective society was confronted with?
3) Existential Absurdity and Social Change: “Sonny’s Blues” and “The Guest”
The philosophical thinking of existentialism, or Camus’s idea of absurdism, is very much a product of its times. It offers a critical set of inquiries into the political turbulence in post-war Europe. Interestingly, although Baldwin is not considered an existential writer, his story “Sonny’s Blues” also offers a psychological contemplation on the Sisyphean struggle that African Americans had undergone just to survive. In your essay, examine how both authors portray the absurdity, the futility of existence felt by the characters, and how they “cope” or come to terms with such an existential state. This is the topic that encourages you explore the connection between philosophy, history, politics, and art. Therefore, you need to situate these two stories in their own historical and geographical specificities.
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